Crossing the Finish Line
by Michelle Hall
My daughter and I attended a roller skating birthday party last weekend. At one point, the staff cleared the rink and allowed the skaters to participate in races. In an effort to prevent a pile-up of 4- to 6-year-olds on wheels, this youngest age group was instead encouraged to participate in a "sock" race. Same concept, but minus the wheels that could easily cause an injury. One lap around the rink, first one to the finish wins. My daughter wanted to participate, and I rooted her on, secretly doubting that she would actually follow-through.
The whistle blew, and they were off. I expected my daughter to quit before she got half way around because she is prissy, hates to be hot and sweaty and generally shuns exerting herself. However, to my utter surprise, she ran like the wind. Her long, skinny legs kicked smoothly back and forth in perfect form; her arms pumping her all the way to the finish line in the middle of the pack. She had given it her all and was thrilled to reach the finish. She bounded up to me, shouting, "Did I win the race like you do, Mommy?"
I didn't have the heart to tell her that she didn't win, and that even though I am an avid runner, I have NEVER won a race. Not even close, not even semi-close. I have, in fact, come very close to winning last place in a race. (The 70-year-old power-walker stole that title from me, just barely.) Nevertheless, I didn't think my little girl would understand the purpose of running a race, knowing that you won't actually win it. And I certainly didn't want her to feel the least bit discouraged to try something out of her element in the future. So, I looked her right in the big, innocent blue eyes and told an untruth, "Yep, just like mommy".
Winning a race is hard for me because I have muscular dystrophy. And conventional medical "wisdom" tells me that I should not even be exerting myself. I should not require my muscles to work so hard that they get fatigued and torn. I should be sitting back, watching my body deteriorate — my muscles wasting slowly away. I should see the writing on the wall and not even bother with running or any other endurance activity. I should join the senior citizen's water aerobics class and sport a flowery swim cap, letting my feet softly bounce along the floor of the pool, and call it water jogging.
So why do I bother running races? I run because I truly enjoy the physical challenge and mostly because it actually increases my faith. Each time I cross a finish line, I want to scream, "See what God gives me the strength to do, despite the fact that it doesn't make sense?!" I grow each time I cross a finish line. I should have given her that answer. The wisdom filled, "No, honey, you didn't win first place, but you are a winner just because you tried your best. It's all about personal growth." That would have been tough to explain too.
Personal and spiritual growth are a result of simply running in the race. I finish one race and realize I really can do, and even long to do, another ... and another. Before long, I begin to believe that I really can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me, simply because I wasn't afraid to get out there and try.
Michelle Hall is a MOPS and MOMSnext coordinator in a suburb of Houston, Texas.